Pandora Sphinx Moth

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While on a hike several weeks ago, I came across this cool caterpillar. It’s the larva of a Pandora Sphinx, a type of Hawk Moth. These large caterpillars feed on the leaves of Grape and Virginia Creeper.

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This caterpillar is known to retract its first two body segments, the first being its head, into the third segment when disturbed.

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The Hawk Moths are also referred to as Sphinx Moths because the large caterpillars of most species often rear up their front ends in mock defense when disturbed, resembling a “Sphinx.”

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I took the caterpillar home and fed it grape leaves from my backyard. Eventually is turned into the this pupa and buried itself in the dirt at the bottom of its terrarium.

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After several weeks of patiently waiting, the adult moth emerged.

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As an adult, like many Hawk Moths, the Pandora Sphinx can be seen at night hovering about flowers in the tobacco family. It was awesome to encounter this crazy looking caterpillar and see it transform.

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Fowler’s Toad

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This toad looks similar to the American Toad, though it is slightly smaller and has several subtle distinguishing features. The easiest way to identify it is that it has three or more warts within each dark spot on its back.

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I have almost always found this amphibian in sandy habitats, such as woodlands, meadows, prairies, sand dunes and lake shores. It prefers areas with loose soil that it can easily burrow into. Its skin is warty and bumpy. Toads have two kidney-shaped, raised parotid glands just behind their eyes that contain toxins. This is how these relatively slow-moving creatures prevent themselves from being eaten by predators.

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Toads have big appetites and are considered to be beneficial to man, as they use their long tongues to snap up insects and other invertebrates. Fowler’s Toads are solitary, except when they congregate in shallow pools to breed in the spring. Their call is not as melodious as the trill of the American Toad; the Fowler Toad’s song sounds more like a buzzy quack.

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I find this amphibian more often in other states than in my home state of Ohio, and I always enjoys coming across it in the wild.

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Pickerelweed

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Pickerelweed is an aquatic plant which grows to about two feet tall. It can be found growing shallow freshwater, such as marshes, pond edges, lakes, and streamsides. The leaves of this plant are large and heart-shaped, growing up to 10 inches long.

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This plant is most often recognized by its beautiful flowers. Pickerelweed has large spikes with clusters of violet-blue flowers. Each flower is small, less than half an inch wide. It has a small yellow spot on one petal.

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The nectar from their flowers attracts many insects, including bees and butterflies. Pickerelweed blooms mainly in late Summer and early Autumn. Bees and other insects pollinate the flowers. After a flower has been pollinated, it dies and a fruit grows.

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The each fruit contains a seed. The seeds serve as a food source for ducks and muskrats. The leaves of this plant are eaten by Muskrat, White-tailed Deer and waterfowl.

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The parts of the plant that are underwater provide habitat for tiny water creatures. Pickerel Weed is utilized by humans too, as a landscaping plant in water gardens.

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Common Logperch

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Logperches are a unique subgroup of of a family of fish known as darters. They are easily distinguished from virtually all other darters by their tiger-like coloration, and distinctive head and snout shapes.

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These fish have a unique foraging behavior: they flip stones on the stream bottom with their snouts to expose prey hidden underneath. Logperches eat aquatic insects, young crayfishes and aquatic roundworms.

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The Darter Family has the second largest number of species of freshwater fishes in North America (only the minnow family has more species). Currently there are about 165 species of darters known and all reside in North America.

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They are usually found in areas with considerable sand, gravel or rocky areas in lakes or medium to large streams and rivers. Logperches and are among the largest of darters in size, six inches in total length.

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Darters usually rest on the bottom. When disturbed, they dart away quickly to a hiding place, which accounts for their common name.

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